American Horror Story: Coven
October 23, 2013
This entire episode:
Poor Fiona can’t sleep because after the age of 35 women’s bodies just turn off the ability to stay asleep all night, this is a True Medical Fact. Enjoy your precious sleep now, 20-somethings! It doesn’t get better! I digress. Fiona can’t sleep so she goes downstairs for a glass of brown and a little reminiscing about that one time she murderized her mentor.
It was 1971, and a young woman who bears no resemblance to the gorgeousness that is actually Fiona is grilling the reigning Supreme, Anna Leigh Leighton, on when she knew she was destined to become Supreme. Anna Leigh explains that when she was 29, the Supreme at the time, 1920s Flapper Lady, had Anna Leigh perform the 7 Wonders in front of the Council. But that’s not what Young Fiona asked. First of all, Council Schmancil, secondly, when did Anna Leigh know know that she was Supreme? Anna Leigh tries to explain to Young Fiona that she always had a lot of gifts, but one does not simply become Supreme. It is performing the 7 Wonders that makes one Supreme, and, P.S., Young Fiona is young and not ready yet. Young Fiona sneers that Anna Leigh is just old and sick with the diabeetus and jealous, which earns her a well-deserved slap across the face and called a “vicious little gash” which very well might be the filthiest thing anyone has ever said on television while technically still not being a curse word. According to Anna Leigh, Young Fiona will only bring ruin to the Coven, and, in fact, Anna Leigh is going to make sure Young Fiona never becomes Supreme. But Anna Leigh can’t stop Young Fiona from taking over if Young Fiona slashes her throat, now can she? And the creepy silent butler? The one who could really make good use of a hot oil treatment? He witnesses the whole thing.
And he is there when Fiona snaps out of it in the present day for Fiona to growl at. “
RUN A COMB THROUGH YOU HAIR. Cat got your tongue?” Get it? Because she made him mute? I mean, maybe. Maybe she did. Who even knows with Ryan Murphy, you can’t take anything for granted with this guy. (Although he suggests here that that’s exactly what happened.)
In a long, meandering and florid soliloquy, Fiona goes on and on about “The Dance” which is one big metaphor for “I was really hot and slept with a lot of guys and took for granted that they’d always want to sleep with me but now they don’t want to sleep with me because aging is a rat bastard.” And the plastic surgeon she is telling this to is like, “Uh, great? So let me explain how this facelift is going to work…” and Fiona has herself a cry at the thought of looking like a “trout.”
Meanwhile, Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Girls has new next door neighbors moving in of the shirtless and hot variety. Nan, Queenie and Madison lick their chops from the balcony above, which Shirtless’s Mother sees, before ordering him to put his shirt back on, go inside and read some Bible verses for good measure.
Being good neighbors, Nan and Madison drop by the new neighbors’ house with a Welcome to the Paganhood! yellow cake. Madison leers at Shirtless’ “package,” but he’s too busy making eyes at Nan to even notice. But then Momma Bible-Humper comes in and tries to shoo the girls away, because hussies and also Bible study even though it’s not even Sunday. After insulting Christianity for a bit, Madison flings a knife using her mind powerz towards the rough vicinity of Momma Bible’s head, before setting the curtains on fire — also with her mind powerz — on her way out the door.
Fiona, having received the bad news that neither this plastic surgeon or any other will be making her look like a trout thanks to some alarming blood work, comforts herself with some pills and scotch. Which is where Momma Bible finds her to introducer herself, offer Fiona a Bible, naturally, and warn Fiona to keep her knife-throwing, curtain-burning tramps out of her house and off of her hot shirtless son. After Fiona dispatches this nuisance, she has Madison demonstrate her newest fire trick by lighting her cigarette for her. Ta-da! Fiona is impressed/depressed.
Fiona takes Madison to brunch at Atchafalaya where, over mimosas, they discuss motherhood and superpowers, which is just criminal because Atchafalaya has a tremendous make-it-yourself bloody mary bar. Tremendous. Madison’s mother is basically Dina Lohan and The Worst, and Fiona laments not being a good mother to Delia, she just has so much to teach! Madison takes the bait and begs Fiona to
be her mommy teach her. So Fiona instructs Madison to make some extra walk into traffic with her mind powerz. When he does, Madison is delighted, wondering if she or Fiona did it. Fiona smiles cryptically, but it fades, revealing that it wasn’t Fiona at all.
The new besties go out and shoot some pool, which no, Fiona does not “shoot pool,” this is nonsense, BUT THE POINT IS, Fiona sees Young Fiona in Madison, has a jealousad.
Back at the school, Fiona advises Madison to have her portrait done while she’s young, seeing as she is to be the next Supreme. Fiona explains that she’s dying, that Madison is literally draining her of her power, her life force and giving her the cancer (NO, IT’S NOT ALL THE SMOKING, IT’S MADISON. SHUT UP, SCIENCE.), so why not just go ahead and slit Fiona’s throat already and be done with it? It’s for the good of the coven. Fiona tries to give Madison the knife she used to kill Anna Leigh, but Madison is not down with Supremicide, and refuses. And somehow in the ensuing tussle, Fiona accidentally but not at all accidentally slashes Madison’s throat, killing her. Whoops!
And, of course, CrazyHair saw the whole thing.
Elsewhere, Zoe pays a visit to Kyle’s mom, Stoned Mare Winningham. Stoned Mare Winningham is very sad that her dead son is dead; after her husband left her, Kyle had become the man of the house. Stoned Mare Winningham just wishes she could hold and kiss Kyle again, if only to say goodbye. Zoe promises Stoned Mare Winningham that she’ll see Kyle again, he hasn’t left them. AND BOY HOWDY DID THIS SCENE TAKE ON A WHOLE NEW MEANING UPON A SECOND VIEWING. YIKES. YIKESTOWN.
Out in the Cabin in the Woods, Misty Day has been healing FrankenKyle with some Louisiana mud, the sweet soft rock of Fleetwood Mac and talk about the necessity of finding one’s “tribe.” Of course, FrankenKyle already found his tribe and, in fact, is made up of many parts of them. He’s a walking tribe.
Zoe swings by, and is like, “OH HAI, I NEED MY DEAD BOYFRIEND BACK, THANKS FOR ZOMBIE SITTING HIM FOR ME, BYEEEEEEE!!!” Misty Day, who just wants a little company, and now realizes that Zoe isn’t, in fact, her Best Friendship Pal, makes one last plea to FrankenKyle to stay with her: Zoe abandoned him! She took care of him and bathed him and fed him and nursed him and healed him! But FrankenKyle is all grown up now, so he chooses Zoe. “ARRARRRARRRR!” (Translation: “BYEEEEEEE!!!!”) On her way out, Zoe promises to come back and visit, and Misty Day is like, “Yeah, I’ve heard that one before,” before grabbing a scarf and going full Stevie because she is Gone with the Wind Fabulous.
Zoe drives FrankenKyle back to his mother’s house and dumps him on the doorstep before driving away. BYEEEEEE!!!
That night, FrankenKyle is in his bed, trying to get some sleep, when Stoned Mare Winningham comes into the room to talk about how when she inappropriately busted in on him while he was taking a shower earlier, she couldn’t help but notice that he looks … different. O? YOU THINK? What was it about all the scar tissue around his neck and torso that tipped you off? Stoned Mare Winningham doesn’t know what is going on, but she does know that he is still her “beautiful boy” and that they are together again. And that’s when Stoned Mare Winningham starts kissing FrankenKyle, like really kissing him, like Spanking the Monkey kissing him and BAD TOUCH! BAD TOUCH! YOU’RE MAKING FRANKENKYLE CRY, STONED MARE WINNINGHAM!
Later, Zoe receives a phone call from Stoned Mare Winningham, informing her that “it happened, Kyle’s come back” …except that it’s, like, not Kyle? You know, man?
Then Stoned Mare Winningham tells FrankenKyle that she’s invited his little girlfriend over for dinner, but wonders why FrankenKyle never told her about Zoe. Stoned Mare Winningham assures FrankenKyle that she knows she’s been possessive, and that it’s time for him to move on with his life, before turning around and rubbing herself on him while insisting that Zoe won’t possibly know how to please him the way she does. So he bashes Stoned Mare Winningham’s head in with one of his soccer trophies.
And that’s how Zoe finds the family: Stoned Mare Winningham with her face smooshed in like a stomped melon, FrankenKyle nearby, covered in his mother’s blood. Cool family!
Boring Delia is so boring she couldn’t even get herself knocked up with the Snake Sex because her insides are a rocky place where Darrin’s seed can find no purchase, according the fertility doctor.
Those options played out, Boring Delia goes to Marie Laveau and is like, “So tell me about the voodoo infertility treatments you offer?” Marie Laveau explains that it involves a mason jar full of her husband’s snake venom, some dancing, a hot pepper, fresh goat’s blood all over Delia’s panties and $50,000. “Sold!” says Boring Delia, but Marie Laveau just laughs and laughs because there is no amount of money she would take from her sworn enemy’s daughter, especially not after she came into her salon looking to start a war, FIONA.
Finally, Mme. Lalaurie has been catching up with American politics and has learned from the magic talking box that a Negro (her words, not mine) is the President of the United States. Fiona fills her in that she in fact voted for him twice and that since Mme. Lalaurie was placed in that box, there have also been black Secretaries of State, Supreme Court Justices and Poet Laureates. Mme. Lalaurie does not take this news well.
Oh, and Mme. Lalaurie is the new maid, but despite this being American Horror Story, methinks she will not be getting all sexxxytimes.
In her new role, Mme. Lalaurie is forced to serve Madison (who is not yet dead), Nan and Queenie lunch as they gossip about their sex lives: Madison and Nan are hardly virgins, Queenie is saving herself for someone special. Mme. Lalaurie balks at serving Queenie because racism, and instead throws Queenie’s plate against the wall. At this, Fiona announces that from here on out, Mme. Lalaurie will be serving as Queenie’s personal slave, because there is nothing Fiona hates more than a racist. Well, young beautiful women who drain her of her life force and magically give her lung cancer, and then racists. But it’s a close second.
Queenie orders Mme. Lalaurie to make her chicken pot pie and peach cobbler (mmm… peach cobbler) and in response, Mme. Lalaurie scolds Queenie about her weight. Queenie informs Mme. Lalaurie that Dr. Phil says that food is a replacement for love, to which Mme. Lalaurie replies that Queenie should get a new doctor. Mme. Lalaurie is my new favorite. Well, Jessica Lange in everything, and then Mme. Lalaurie. But it’s a close second.
And that’s when the Minotaur shows up and starts banging his horns up against the house. WHAT THE WHAT?!? Queenie asks, and Mme. Lalaurie has to explain that it’s her old houseboy who was sleeping with her daughter and now he’s a magical bullman here to kill Mme. Lalaurie. WHAT THE WHAT?!? Queenie asks, and Mme. Lalaurie explains that she is Mme. Lalaurie of The Lalaurie House. (Speaking of, here are some pictures from inside the actual Lalaurie House which was just redone and now bears a striking resemblance to the interiors of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Girls, don’t you think? Also, I want to live there, please and thank you.) And because this is a show about witches, and not Real Life, Queenie doesn’t blink at this, but instead yells at Mme. Lalaurie for being so very, very terrible. But a good slave is hard to find, so instead of opening the back door and shoving Mme. Lalaurie out to the Minotaur and being done with it, Queenie cuts the back of Mme. Lalaurie’s hand, collects some of her blood on a towel, orders Mme. Lalaurie to go hide before heading outside to deal with this bullman herself.
Using the blood-stained dishtowel, Queenie lures the Minotaur out, away from the house where she tells him that she understands him, he just wanted love, that doesn’t make him a beast. They call her that, too, but that’s not who they are — they deserve love like everybody else. And that’s when Queenie begins minotauring herself while asking him if he doesn’t want to love her. Which, Queenie, no? No, ma’am. Do not be having the sexytimes with the bullman. You can do better! But the Minotaur goes behind her and pets her with his hoofhand before rather violently grabbing her mouth with his human hand. And I don’t know what just happened? What happened? What just happened to Queenie, you guys? Did the Minotaur hurt her or was this just some 50 Shades of Bullman rough sexytime play? You guys? Guys?
Soooooo, this episode. This episode! How crazy is this episode? Madison’s death was surprising, for sure, but it wasn’t entirely unexpected: once they’d established that Fiona was willing to kill to become Supreme and she set her sights on Madison as her apparent heir, you kinda knew what was coming. Because, what, they’re going to kill off Jessica Lange in the third episode? Don’t be ridiculous.
What was legitimately shocking was the horrific sexual abuse Kyle suffered at the hand of his mother. What transpires between the two of them is so unimaginable that even after she walks in on him in the shower, we still do not see it coming. Go back and watch the opening scene and her conversation with Zoe and listen again to what she says: he was the man of the house, he was such a gentleman, she wishes she could kiss and hold him again. These are all innocuous clichés that any mother would say about her son, except that knowing what we now know about their relationship, they take on a grotesque meaning. It’s the line where a natural mother’s love becomes something … else. Something dark, something monstrous.
This is the major theme of the episode, this duality of motherhood. Motherhood and maternal symbols are associated with bring forth life, nurturing, protecting, sustaining — Mother Goddesses tend to be related to the Earth and water, that which literally gives us life. But these associations can turn dark, suppressive, terrifying.
As The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols writes:
The same ambivalence existing in sea and Earth symbolism recurs in the symbol of the Mother. Life and death are interdependent. To be born is to emerge from the Mother’s womb; to die is to return to Earth. Mothers are anchors of shelter, warmth, love and nourishment. On the other hand they may run the risk of suppressing their children by limiting their horizons and of stifling them by exercising the office of nurse-maid and governess to excess, She who gave life devours what should procreate; the giver entraps and castrates. [pg. 677]
This image of Mother as devourer is the predominate one of the episode: Kyle’s mother’s abuse is not just repulsive because it is one of our worst taboos, incest, it is also psychologically and emotionally repressive. She is trying to hold her child back, to keep him with her instead of pursuing the natural order of things in which the child leaves the mother to become his own person.
Mirroring this dynamic, albeit on a lesser scale, Joan Ramsey, the school’s next door neighbor, is clearly over-protective of her maturing son. While she sees herself as protecting her family’s values and his eternal soul, she’s clearly being written as a repressive, castrating mother, holding her son back (or attempting to hold her son back — we’ll see how successful she is) from reaching sexual maturity.
And then there is Fiona, the most suppressive mother — albeit surrogate mother — of them all. She literally kills that which she should be nurturing, she destroys the “child” that is supposed to take her place in this world. By murdering Madison instead of protecting her, Fiona upends the natural order.
The deep fear of being replaced by someone younger and prettier — which is, sadly for those of us in our middle years, is how things go — is what drives these women to act so monstrously. At root, the mothers in this episode (including FrankeKyle’s surrogate mother, Misty Day) are terrified of being forced off the stage, rendered obsolete, stripped of one’s power. And being women, they believe that power lies within their sexuality, desirability and fertility.
This is why Delia’s struggle with her fertility is an intriguing storyline — at least in concept. I’m still kinda waiting for it to go somewhere, honestly. But there is potential there: this issue of lacking procreative energy, what it means to not have that power, and how it affects Delia’s own understanding of herself as a woman and a witch.
Finally, there is one more mother-child dynamic in this episode that is actually not irrevocably broken, but instead has the potential to grow into something redemptive for both parties: Mme. Lalaurie and Queenie. Now, I don’t know where they are going with this, because with Ryan Murphy, you can never tell — I have to make that caveat. That said, though Mme. Lalaurie initially rejects serving Queenie, she is forced to be Queenie’s personal slave: making her bed, cooking her meals, cleaning her space. While children can certainly make their own beds and clean up their rooms, it’s still a very maternal role Fiona has forced Mme. Lalaurie into with Queenie. And she seems to be, albeit against her will, taking to it, offering Queenie unsolicited advice about taking care of herself, for instance. The potential for this relationship to grow into something more is certainly there.
And I don’t know where they are going with the Queenie/Minotaur business — Ryan Murphy has flatly said that, “It doesn’t end well is all I will say” — but there is some nice mirroring with Queenie as Mme. Lalaurie’s surrogate daughter sleeping with the Minotaur. After all, Mme. Lalaurie created the Minotaur from the man whom she found sleeping with her actual daughter. Perhaps Queenie will have a little Minotaur calf, and make Mme. Lalaurie a surrogate grandmother. Round and round, round and round.
OK, one last bit of business: I am never going to have this thing posted on time, you guys. It just isn’t going to happen. Those of you who have read me for a while understand that what I just said is, in fact, an understatement. However, unlike me, our former Tubular colleague, the beloved Bobby is young and spry and can stay up until 3 a.m. to be clever and witty and find gifs and post something so that your AHS needs are met first thing in the morning after the show airs. You can find him over at towleroad.com doing his hilarious thing. I guess I should give you a heads-up that towleroad is a gay site in case that offends your delicate sensibilities, or you dislike looking at gorgeous men with no shirts on, but who dislikes looking at gorgeous men with no shirts on that is just crazy talk.
American Horror Story: Coven airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on FX.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com